Political scientists say education minister should be held accountable
One of the island’s prominent political scientists is suggesting that both the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and public are failing to do what is necessary to hold Government to account for its failures.
Tennyson Joseph has suggested that as one of the first steps to taking action should be putting Minister of Education Ronald Jones on public trial for the way he is handling matters under his portfolio.
The call came a day after Shadow Minister of Education Edmund Hinkson called for Jones to resign or be fired.
In separate interviews with Barbados TODAY, Joseph and fellow political scientist Dr George Belle agreed that there is a need for change, although they disagreed on whether a snap general election would resolve the current discontent among the population and the country’s economic problems.
Joseph, who is Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), suggested that the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) should initiate a mass meeting and put Jones on trial, in the same way that the people of Grenada did when they had issues with the late Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy.
“I think a lot of the inaction [by Government] would have to fall on the Opposition party, because the Opposition party is the one that has to carve a response. Any situation they find themselves in, as a political party, you have to make an analysis of what the mood of the public is, what are the demands of the people and so forth, and carve a response,” he said.
“I would call a mass meeting to read a public indictment of the minister. In the old days, Grenada used to have that. You would call a meeting to put Gairy on trial. These are strategies that you can do.”
Joseph added: “The political party should now decide on step two: ‘We calling a meeting of all university students who are affected by the decision [to pay tuition fees]; we calling a townhall meeting to talk to those people who were depending on bursaries. Step three, we calling a mass meeting to indict the Minister of Education’.”
Joseph further accused the Government of using silence to deal with the current challenges facing the country, the confusion surrounding the promised bursaries for Barbadian students at UWI, and the mixed messages being sent by its ministers.
Meantime, Belle not only believes the Freundel Stuart administration should return to the polls, but that the entire Cabinet should step down.
He told Barbados TODAY that a sense of unreliability had become a feature of the Government, pointing to various pronouncements by Jones and, more recently, the Minister of Education’s unfulfilled promise of bursaries.
Over the weekend, another section of the media reported that while Jones had announced bursaries for 3,000 students the Ministry of Finance had indicated it would not be footing the bill and the Ministry of Education would have to find the money from its own budget.
Belle cited other issues of failures and delays by Government as reasons for Cabinet to resign and send the electorate back to the polls.
Joseph said that while Hinkson’s call for the Minister of Education to resign was justified, he could not say the same about an early poll.
“The Government can always claim that it had won its last election less than two years ago and so [that] it has a mandate from the people. It can also claim that its balance in the House [of Assembly] has widened rather than narrowed,” he said.
“The only thing that can justify an election would be more expressions of public activity and disapproval and so forth. What we have is silence and silence can be construed as consent. So I don’t think a call for a fresh general election can be easily justified.”
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